The biggest threat to safety seems to be plastic; this helpful material typically contains all sorts of chemicals, from lead to BPA, that can cause serious health problems with prolonged use of the material. The riskiest of these chemicals are the phthalates–and beware, because they are in almost everything!
Phthalates: The Basics
Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and less easily broken or bent (they are sometimes called plasticizers). This non-naturally occurring set of chemicals are commonly used in making plastics, whether that be in toys, make up, or food containers. Phthalates are known to be present in almost everything. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control released a set of studies that indicated that most Americans are exposed to phthalates every day, which can be disastrous.
Why are Phthalates Dangerous?
Phthalates are known to cause various diseases and illness in adults and children with prolonged use.
Adults: Reports have shown an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, impotence, birthing abnormalities, and autoimmune disorders with consistent use of products with phthalates.
Children: Reports have shown an increased risk of diabetes, early onset puberty, asthma-related complications, autoimmune disorders, and growth issues with consistent use of products with phthalates.
Where are Phthalates Found?Unfortunately, phthalates are found in almost everything we use on a daily basis. They seem to be present in most things containing plastics; however, it seems that society is not aware of just how many products contain traces of plastics.
Cosmetics: Many lipsticks, mascara, foundations, and lash glue are all are known to contain phthalates. The chemicals help them to keep their shape and turn from a liquid to a pigmented solid. Unfortunately, these chemicals present in the products are toxic with continued use, especially if it gets ingested (such as lipsticks or lip balms often do).
Toys: It always seems like plastic children’s toys are the best option with regard to safety. Most of these toys, such as balls and trucks, are a safe option because they seem to be too big to swallow and choke on. However, many plastic toys are still not safe for children unless they are eco-friendly. Small pieces can easily be swallowed, causing not only a potential choking, but toxin poisoning from the phthalates in the plastic. Larger pieces are constantly in the hands of children, and prolonged use is known to cause any of the health issues listed above.
Art Supplies: Children and adults alike are known to love the arts; painting, coloring, and sculpting are all fun and creative hobbies. Unfortunately, art supplies are known to be full of phthalates. Paints and the coatings on the paint brushes all are likely to have traces of lead, BPA, and phthalates. Unless the product promises itself to be eco-friendly or phthalate-free, it is best to do further research before purchasing any of those products.
Tools: Much like art supplies, tools are known to be coated in paints and stains that contain phthalates. As the hands holding the tools sweat, the residues of these phthalates can get on the hands and may be ingested. Eco-friendly or recycled tools are hard to find; the best way to defend against these concerns is to practice good hygiene by washing hands after working with tools and wearing masks if working with stain.
Food containers: The scariest of all is food containers. Most plasticware contain phthalates and other dangerous chemicals that can seep into food when met with heat or microwaves. The heat causes the plastic to sweat and potentially leak off the phthalates’ residue; no amount of washing can get the residue off, either! Plasticware are often by far some of the most dangerous products in the home as they hold the food that is supposed to nourish families, not hurt them.
All in all, phthalates are bad news for those who enjoy the efficiency of plastics. To rid the home of all dangerous plastics, do research regarding common products that are used and recycle those that are leaning more toward the dangerous side. The safety of the family should always be the most important focus!